What QM Can’t Do (Part 1)

April 5th, 2011

Today we’ll begin a series of posts addressing a few common complaints we’ve received over the past two years. These posts will deal with behaviors that many subscribers often incorrectly assume exist or think should be implemented but which are technically impossible. Much of this is mentioned already in the documentation but we’ll be going into the issues in-depth. In part 1 we’ll address the most common question “Why did my listing end?“. Specifically we’ll be covering the situation where a buyer purchases all available quantity at once.

Why did my listing end?!?!?!

In almost every case we have examined over the years this is due to the simple misunderstanding in how QM works.  QM works after the sale, not during.  The events from purchase to quantity refresh occur as follows:

  1. Buyer makes a purchase.
  2. eBay decreases quantity available on eBay.  If 0 remain then mark the listing as ended.
  3. eBay notifies QM of the sale.
  4. QM refreshes quantity (if applicable).

Step #2 above is where the problem lies.  Because buyers can purchase any quantity available to them they have the option to purchase all within a single order.  When that happens eBay will end the listing before anything can be done about it. This is the reason why you cannot specify a Display value of 1 by default. A Display setting of 1 would result in every sale causing the listing to end and most subscribers don’t want that.

MVL listings do not suffer from this limitation in the same way since they contain one or more sub listings. As long as one variation has a quantity available of more than 0 at all times eBay will not end it. This allows QM to bring variations back from having a quantity available of 0 as long as that wasn’t the only active variation.

What can I do to stop this from happening?

There are a few actions that can be performed to avoid situations like this.

The easiest and most effective solution is to simply increase your setting for Display to a number higher than what your buyers commonly buy. If you sell something that people only ever buy singingly then it is probably OK selling with Display set to 2. But if buyers occasionally buy 2 or 3, experiment with slightly higher numbers. Over time the number of quantity sold (as shown by eBay to your buyers) will increase and as long as you have a quantity available of 10 or less, your listing will have the appearance of scarcity.

Another, often overlooked, setting is your buyer requirements. eBay allows sellers to automatically block buyers who meet certain criteria such as feedback and unpaid listings. eBay also lets sellers select the maximum number of items someone may purchase from you in a set period of time. This lets you choose a number purchased from 1 – 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100. Simply select a number that is one lower than your setting for Display and no single buyer will be able to end any of your listings. Just keep in mind that if your business depends on selling multiple different products to the same buyers this setting may negatively impact sales.

Buyer Requirements

The true cost of this happening.

In most cases a listing ending due to this situation doesn’t cause any significant harm.  A listing that ends will permanently lose its watchers, number of quantity sold, and the cost to relist.

The cost to relist for most sellers is between $0.03 and $0.20 depending on their store subscription level plus any optional features that had been added.  For eBay.com most optional (and expensive) features liked Featured First, etc have been retired limiting potential financial loses. The fee to relist was very likely already paid for by the sale that ended the listing.

Watchers, for the most part, are irrelevant to a listing because they rarely if ever come back to purchase.  The whole point of QM is to prevent them from adding your listing to the watch list in the first place and make their purchase immediately instead.  There are however cases where eBay will cross promote a listing for free inside competing sellers’ listings if it is one of the top 5 most watched listings in the same category.  If that applies to your listing then it is strongly advised that you perform one of the preventative measures mentioned above.

One thing that isn’t lost in this case is your best match ranking. As long as a listing is relisted within 7 days of ending its recent sales score will be carried over into the next listing. QM also has the ability to relist immediately upon ending due to this situation ensuring that your score is not lost.

Some sellers actually have found that having a Display setting of 1 paired with auto-relisting provides enough benefit to make up for any of these losses.

Will QM ever be able to work in this situation?

It is unlikely given the way eBay currently operates.

Most eCommerce sites end a listing immediately upon the quantity available becoming 0. Some sites like Amazon which doesn’t let sellers create actual listings does not have that issue. As eBay becomes progressively more like Amazon and moves towards everything being catalog based there may come a point in the future where it is possible.

eBay could also open their developer’s program to embedding functions into the eBay platform itself. This is even more unlikely though due to security and performance concerns.

How well does QM work outside of this situation?

QM has a very strong record of keeping listings active when excluding all cases where a single buyer purchased a quantity equal to Display in a single order. In most cases QM will refresh a listing in around six seconds after a sale has occurred with recent improvements making it as quick as four seconds in many cases. We spend several hundred dollars per month in hosting costs and infrastructure improvements to keep everything running as smoothly and quickly as possible.

From the period 11/25/10 – 12/25/10 (the busiest time of the year on eBay) QM failed to refresh a listing in time 0.006% of the time. In many cases the failure was due to a buyer accidentally duplicating an order within seconds or the seller accepting multiple best offers before waiting for QM to refresh the listing.

Quantity Manager Now On Selling Manager

August 17th, 2009

Quantity Manager is now available for use directly on the eBay site as part of eBay’s Selling Manager Applications program.

Benefits to using Quantity Manager through Selling Manager:

To celebrate this achievement we are offering two flat rate pricing options to our new and existing customers.  We offer a monthly plan of $9.95 per month and a yearly plan of $99.95.  Considering that the typical subscriber to Quantity Manager spends between $14 – $30 per month this is a significant savings.  However to lock in this pricing you must act quickly.  These flat rate pricing plans will be replaced by our standard usage-based pricing in September.  If too many people take us up on this offer we may stop accepting new subscriptions in order to ensure the high quality of our service.

To sign up through Selling Manager Apps simply visit our application catalog entry (listed under “Inventory”) and click the subscribe button.  You must have an active Selling Manager subscription before signing up but that is now free.  You must also be a US registered seller on eBay.com as other international sites are not yet supported. If you are a current subscriber you must pay any balances that are due on your account before subscribing through Selling Manager.  If you receive an error message try back later this week since eBay is performing a staggered roll-out of SM Apps.

We’ve moved!

August 8th, 2009

Last Saturday we moved our service from one DreamHost VPS to RackSpace Cloud Servers to better serve our customers. We now have six (6) dedicated virtual servers to run Quantity Manager. Each server is highly scalable. Our servers are divided into three redundant services giving us practically 100% uptime.

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Multi-Variation Support

July 31st, 2009

Quantity Manager now supports Multi-Variation listings (MVL). This new format allows sellers to list different variations (colors, sizes, etc) of the same item. Such listings help sellers consolidate many listings into one to help save on listings and feature fees. Sales for each variation also helps the entire listing for recent sales / best match ranking.

It’s Official

October 9th, 2008

We just passed eBay’s application check process.

Quantity Manager

October 7th, 2008

One of the features of eBay’s new “Best Match” algorithm is that it takes into account recent sales.  If your multiple quantity fixed price listing has sales it will be given a boost in the best match sort compared to those listings that have had fewer sales.  This boost is also carried over to the first relist as long as you don’t change it significantly (title, price, etc).  Along with recent fee changes, this part of the algorithm encourages eBay sellers to place all their inventory within fewer listings.

The problem with this is that it goes contrary to buyer behavior.  A buyer is more likely to purchase an item from a seller if only a few remain.  A seller who lists all their items in one listing may find themselves with little or no sales compared to one who only lists a fraction of their inventory within the listing.

This site will automatically manage a sellers fixed price listings so they can keep an artificially low quantity visible to their buyers without risking selling out of the listing and having to relist.  All the seller has to do is tell us the quantity in stock and the quantity to maintain in the listing.  We’ll refresh your inventory anytime a buyer makes a purchase until you run out.  We free up the seller to do other activities such as improving the buyer experience.

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